Samsung 77” S95C 4K OLED Smart TV Review
Tony O'Brien is totally beguiled by this new 4K Quantum Dot RGB OLED television…
77” S95C 4K OLED Smart TV
As synonymous as the Samsung name is in the world of large-screen television, the South Korean company has been quiet regarding the subject of OLED – for the past decade at least – seemingly content to focus its efforts on LED/LCD technology. That all changed with the introduction of Samsung's S95B OLED in 2022.
Unlike other OLED televisions that use a WRGB panel – incorporating white, red, green and blue pixel sub-structure – the S95B was an RGB OLED. This, the company claims, enables the S95B to be not only significantly brighter than WRGB OLED but also produce a greater range of colours.
So when Samsung asked us if we were interested in reviewing the second-generation 77” S95C OLED, also available in 55” and 65”, we were all ears… or eyes. Like its predecessor, the S95C is a true RGB OLED, which, thanks to improvements in its light-emitting layer, enjoys a twenty percent increase in brightness over the S95B.
In addition to a true RGB panel, the S95C also sports Samsung's proprietary Quantum Dot (QD) Technology, which is said to give purer whites and a wider colour spectrum. The combination of QD and RGB OLED gives it a quoted 100% DCI/P3 and 93% BT 2020. On paper, at least, it's an impressive number, given that current WRGB panels fall just short of producing 100% of DCI/P3 and around 70 to 75% of the BT 2020 colour space.
While OLED doesn't suffer the sometimes-crippling effects of reduced contrast with off-axis viewing, the technology's hardly impervious. The S95C uses a triangular pixel structure to maximise its viewing angle, which Samsung claims improves off-axis viewing.
Unlike Samsung's flagship 8K Q900C, Neo QLED, the S95C is limited to 4K resolution. However, I was pleased to discover that it uses the same Neo Quantum Processor found on the Q900C. As such, the S95B uses 14-bit processing, resulting in 16,384 grayscale levels. Thus, Samsung claims the S95C produces finer gradation in images, which is most evident in shadow detail – something I experienced first-hand with both the Samsung Q900A and Q900B I reviewed.
The Neo Quantum Processor utilises Deep Learning AI technology. Comparing images to a database of reference images allows the processor to increase both the resolution and contrast of low-resolution images. It also incorporates two new neural networks to improve cloud-based gaming platforms' input lag and picture quality.
Like its predecessors, the S95C supports HLG, HDR10 and HDR10+. Unfortunately, it doesn't support Dolby Vision. As such, Dolby Vision content will be displayed in HDR10 via the embedded HDR10 layer found in Dolby Vision material, a mandate of the UHD spec. The S95C is also the world's first Pantone-Validated HDR OLEDs, bringing with it the promise of more accurate and life-like colours.
On the gaming front, it supports AMD FreeSync Pro and 4K 144Hz VRR via its HDMI 2.1 inputs. The S95C also automatically senses when a gaming console or PC-based game is connected and switches to Game Mode, optimising the screen for gaming and lowering input lag. It also launches the Game Bar, allowing gamers to view and change settings directly from the TV before moving into gameplay.
The S95C gets its 'smarts' courtesy of Samsung's Tizen operating system and supports Alexa, Bixby and Google Assistant Voice Control. Users also gain access to Samsung TV Plus and the Smart Things hub.
Samsung's Object Tracking System (OTS+) returns with eight built-in (4.2.2) speakers, including up-firing and side-firing speakers, designed to track the on-screen action. It's coupled with Dolby Atmos decoding and Samsung's proprietary Q Symphony, which synchronises sound between compatible Samsung soundbars and the S95C's internal speakers.
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At 1224.6x771.4x276.9mm (stand-mounted), getting the S95C into place is hardly a solitary undertaking. I chose to pedestal-mount the S95C on an entertainment unit, where it replaced a 55” LG C9 OLED. Having assembled many televisions over the years, the S95C is by far the easiest. Four screws are all that's required for the pedestal, which in turn is attached to the back of the television with a built-in snap-lock.
In place, it cuts an attractive figure. Samsung's Infinity One Design lends it a minimalist aspect that draws the eye to the screen rather than the bezel or stand. It's a double-edged sword though, because as attractively understated as it is, it's quite wobbly on the pedestal. As such, I'd seriously consider wall-mounting the S95C, particularly if you have little ones.
The screen itself is far less glossy than the C9 OLED that usually occupies our space. Samsung tells me this is the new matt screen, which is designed to refract incoming light to minimise reflections. It also features anti-fingerprint technology to minimise smudges.
A welcome addition is Samsung's One Connect Box, which is equipped with four HDMI inputs (2.1/4K 144Hz), 3 USB inputs, RF, RS232C, Ethernet and a TOSLINK audio input. It's a simple and elegant solution. Not only does it reduce panel width, but it makes hooking up devices easier, particularly once wall-mounted. The S95C is also dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth compatible.
The set ships with Samsung's One Remote, which forgoes excess buttons in favour of style. It's both easy on the eye and intuitive to use, eschewing disposable batteries in favour of a rechargeable battery, which recharges itself in ambient light.
Powering on the S95C for the first time, I was greeted with easy-to-follow instructions that guided me through the setup process. It's a painless experience, the S95C finding the One Connect Box, tuning into local TV services and downloading our usual apps such as Netflix and Disney+. I should note, though, that having a Samsung phone made the process easier.
The Tizen operating system is a joy to work with, although it's not quite as flexible as Android. Much to my daughter's chagrin, we couldn't access CrunchyRoll without an external device. If you'd like to learn more about how the S95C measured up and calibrated, read on; otherwise, feel free to jump ahead to the PICTURE QUALITY section.
MEASUREMENTS AND CALIBRATION
Picture settings profoundly impact the quality of images, so the S95C was calibrated to industry standards for both SDR and HDR with a high-resolution 2nm JETI 1501 spectroradiometer and Klein K10A colourimeter. It also creates a level playing field to compare the picture quality of different televisions.
The S95C was calibrated using Calman Ultimate 2023 software. A Murideo 6G provided test patterns with the 2023 Spears & Munsil Ultra HD Benchmark used for additional validation. Unless otherwise noted, 10% window test patterns were used.
The Samsung has five picture modes: Dynamic, Standard, Natural, Film-Maker and Movie. Calibration controls include twenty-point greyscale/gamma adjustment and a six-point colour management system (CMS).
Whereas WRGB OLEDs tend to exhibit a slight greenish tinge, the RGB panel on the S95C tended to exhibit a slight purplish tinge out of the box. This was measurable in both the Movie and Film-Maker modes, which both exhibited a red/blue bias across the greyscale (refer to attached reports).
Movie mode measured 223 nits out of the box, while Film Mode measured 100 nits out of the box. Otherwise, both modes performed similarly, with a dE of 2.4- 10.7 for greyscale/gamma and 1.7- 10.7 for colour. Gamma tracking was closer to 2.5, making images appear slightly darker with the default settings.
After calibration, I achieved magnificent accuracy from the onboard controls, achieving a max dE of 0.640 for gamma and 1.479 for colour. Moving to 20% saturation sweeps, the S95C had a max dE of just 1.479 and 2.3 for the notoriously difficult Colour Checker Analysis. It's an outstanding result and one that promises both accurate images for home theatre enthusiasts and the potential for the S95C to be used as a client monitor in grading applications.
Switching to HDR, the S95C measured 1,224 nits with a 10% window pattern. This number dropped to 835 nits with an 18% window, 625 nits with a 25% window, 364 nits with a 50% window and 275 nits with a 100% Full Field. Overall, the S95C achieved excellent image brightness for its size, which should translate into exciting HDR images.
The S95C achieved 99.08% of UHDA-P3 1931xy and 99.56% of UHDA-P3 Percent 1976 with the colour space set to Auto. It achieved 87.73% of BT.2020 1931xy and 92.81% of BT.2020 Percent 1976 uv. Given that most OLEDs can't quite reach 100% of P3, the results are impressive.
Unfortunately, to achieve the wider BT.2020 gamut coverage, the Colour Gamut needs to be manually changed to BT.2020. This leaves the user with the conundrum of which colour space to choose rather than the Auto Colour Space updating the Colour Gamut based on content. Hopefully, this is something that Samsung will address as part of a firmware update. Ultimately, I left the Colour Space in Auto with the Colour Gamut set to P3, given that most content uses the P3 colour space.
Post-calibration greyscale tracking for HDR was likewise excellent; the S95C produced slightly higher dEs, primarily reflecting the EOTF tracking, which didn't strictly adhere to the PQ curve.
The S95's marriage of perfect blacks and high brightness creates stunning HDR imagery. Its wide colour gamut adds to this with an expanded range of colours that brings HDR images to life. SDR performance is equally impressive, as the S95C produces images with a marvellous sense of field and life-like colours. Meanwhile, its 14-bit processing creates greater levels of gradation and detail in dark scenes.
I started my viewing with the excellent 4K SDR Transfer of The Good Doctor on Netflix. Here, the combination of the OLED's inky blacks and excellent SDR gamma tracking gives the image outstanding depth, bringing the transfer to life.
Colour reproduction is likewise outstanding, skin tones realistic and multi-faceted, while foliage such as trees and grass are perfectly natural. Neutral tones, such as greys and whites, are free from colour intrusion, giving them a convincing appearance.
It's the same with the SDR Transfer of Where the Crawdads Sing on Prime, with the post-calibration colour accuracy of the S95C putting me very much in mind of the BenQ W4000i but with those perfect blacks of OLED. It gives images a crispness and sense of realism that's hard to beat.
The HDR Transfer of Lost in Space on Netflix provided the perfect opportunity to test the S95C's HDR mettle. Spectral highlights are particularly eye-catching, ranging from the sun glinting on snow to the Jupiter's interior lights and the magnesium deposits. The combination of perfect blacks and high brightness creates a spectacular HDR experience.
Colour reproduction in HDR is likewise excellent, the S95C's wider colour gamut bringing a whole new range of colours that are non-existent in SDR. For instance, the reds, yellows and oranges in the flames at the alien crash site exhibit a broader range of colours that I rarely encounter in any display.
Switching to the ever-familiar montage on the Spears & Munsil Ultra HD Benchmark in BT.2020, the S95C perfectly reproduces the red of the poppies. It's a level of colour performance that few displays can match, perhaps only eclipsed by the likes of expensive RGB Laser Projectors.
As engrossing as the HDR performance of the S95C is, I did observe some clipping with HDR Tone Mapping set to Dynamic. In this mode, the HDR Tone Mapping favours a harder clip point. This manifests in brighter highlights, albeit at the cost of detail. Conversely, static isn't as bright but retains more high-level detail. Ultimately, there's no right or wrong here, just different approaches to a common problem, with the end-user left to season to taste.
Knock at the Cabin is a solid thriller, and the S95C impresses once again with its wide colour gamut. The lush green hues of the forest are vibrant but never tip into the realms of the absurd. Skin tones look healthy and realistic in HDR, and the wood tones of the cabin are just as believable. As the afternoon sun peaks its way around the corners of the drapes, the S95C's quantum processor is put to work. There's a gentle play on light, with beams of sunlight illuminating some areas while others are steeped in shadow. Faced with the demanding scene, the Samsung does an admirable job – the bright beams of sunlight poking into the cabin are accurately rendered, while there's excellent gradation and detail in the shadows.
In 2021, I mused about how Samsung attempted to close the gap in black levels between LED/LCD and OLED with its Q900A Neo QLED. Now, it appears the proverbial shoe is on the other foot, with the S95C trying to close the gap between OLED and LED/LCD in terms of brightness.
It's this extra brightness, perfect blacks, and an exceptionally wide colour gamut that create superlative HDR images. SDR content fares equally well, with the S95C perhaps the most colour-accurate television I have reviewed after calibration. It's helped in no small part by its ability to produce finer gradation and subsequent detail in darker scenes. All in all, the S95C is a beautiful television that pushes the boundaries of OLED technology and, as such, comes highly recommended.
As the owner of ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator with over a decade of experience. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.
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